Ecologist Elizabeth Bell from New Zealand inspecting a tracking plate in the Quill that is covered with rat prints. (Hannah Madden photo)
ST. EUSTATIUS–Senior ecologist from New Zealand’s Wildlife Management International Ltd. Elizabeth Bell visited St. Eustatius from July 24 to 29, to provide advice on a rodent-control project facilitated through Caribbean Netherlands Science Institute (CNSI) and funded by the Ministry of Economic Affairs. One of the world’s most proactive countries in invasive-species control, New Zealand has unveiled a bold plan to wipe out rats and other unwelcome predators by 2050 to preserve its unique native wildlife and improve human health. Bell is a leading expert in invasive-species control and has spearheaded a number of rat control/eradication projects on islands both in the region and worldwide, such as Redonda and Anguilla’s Dog Island.
The two-year rodent-control project on Statia aims to reduce the number of rats and mice in targeted areas, as well as prevent the introduction and spread of rat-borne diseases, such as leptospirosis among humans.
To that end, Bell met with project leaders Hannah Madden (CNSI) and Dr. Teresa Leslie of Eastern Caribbean Public Health Foundation to discuss activities conducted to date and plan the most effective way forward.
They also sat down with CNSI’s Director Johan Stapel, Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Sharon Veira, and Anthony Reid and Austin van Heyningen of the Department of Infrastructure and Economy.
Bell and Madden spent a few days in the field where they discussed the creation of a treatment area in Quill National Park, and installed tracking plates using bait and non-toxic ink to assess rodent presence and density.
Preliminary results indicate that rats are present in the area surveyed, with six out of ten cards showing rat footprints. Additional tracking plates will be used to compare density in other areas of the island.
The Statia team now has the tools to move forward with the project, assisted by Bell whenever required. Madden will target key species in two main areas aimed at improving the productivity of wildlife, while Leslie’s focus will be in the urban areas.
Outreach activities are ongoing, as the support of the general public is deemed critical in ensuring the project’s success.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/68241-rodent-control-project-receives-expert-advice